How Counties Can Use Land Banks and Eminent Domain
by Ellen Brown
Posted January 15, 2012
An electronic database called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) has created defects in the chain of title to over half the homes in America. Counties have been cheated out of millions of dollars in recording fees, and their title records are in hopeless disarray. Meanwhile, foreclosed and abandoned homes are blighting neighborhoods. Straightening out the records and restoring the homes to occupancy is clearly in the public interest, and the burden is on local government to do it. But how? New legal developments are presenting some innovative alternatives.
The legal tide is turning against MERS and the banks, giving rise to some interesting possibilities for relief at the county level. Local governments have the power of eminent domain: they can seize real or personal property if (a) they can show that doing so is in the public interest, and (b) the owner is compensated at fair market value. More…
Occupy Oakland and the Militarization of America’s Police
by Charles P. Pierce
Posted October 31, 2011
Make no mistake about it: The actions of the police department in Oakland last night were a military assault on a legitimate political demonstration. That it was a milder military assault than it could have been, which is to say it wasn’t a massacre, is very much beside the point. There was no possible provocation that warranted this display of force. (Graffiti? Litter? Rodents? Is the Oakland PD now a SWAT team for the city’s health department?) If you are a police department in this country in 2011, this is something you do because you have the power and the technology and the license from society to do it. This is a problem that has been brewing for a long time. It predates the Occupy movement for more than a decade. It even predates the “war on terror,” although that has acted as what the arson squad would call an “accelerant” to the essential dynamic.
Basic law enforcement in this country is thoroughly, totally militarized. It is militarized at its most basic levels. It is militarized at its highest command positions. It is militarized in its tactics, and its weaponry and, most important of all, in the attitude of the officers themselves, and in how they are trained. There is a vast militarized intelligence apparatus that leads, inevitably, to pre-emptive military actions, like the raids on protest organizations that were carried out in advance of the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Sooner or later, this militarized law enforcement was going to collide head-on with a movement of mass public protest, and the results were going to be ugly. More…
The roles of military and police are totally different. The job of the military is to kill, the job of police to protect. This blurring of the roles will ultimately cause a disaster.
Quake risk to reactors greater than thought
by Dina Cappiello and Jeff Down
Posted September 5, 2011
The risk that an earthquake would cause a severe accident at a U.S. nuclear plant is greater than previously thought, 24 times as high in one case, according to an AP analysis of preliminary government data. The nation’s nuclear regulator believes a quarter of America’s reactors may need modifications to make them safer.
The threat came into sharp focus last week, when shaking from the largest earthquake to hit Virginia in 117 years appeared to exceed what the North Anna nuclear power plant northwest of Richmond was built to sustain. More…
Financial Meltdown: The Case Against the Ratings Agencies
by Michael Hudson
Posted August 22, 2011
In today’s looming confrontation the ratings agencies are playing the political role of “enforcer” as the gatekeepers to credit, to put pressure on Iceland, Greece and even the United States to pursue creditor-oriented policies that lead inevitably to financial crises. These crises in turn force debtor governments to sell off their assets under distress conditions. In pursuing this guard-dog service to the world’s bankers, the ratings agencies are escalating a political strategy they have long been refined over a generation in the corrupt arena of local U.S. politics.
Localities are pressured when their rising debt levels lead to a financial stringency. Banks pull back their credit lines, and urge cities and states to pay down their debts by selling off their most viable public enterprises. Offering opinions on this practice has become a big business for the ratings agencies. So it is understandable why their business model opposes policies – and political candidates – that support the idea of basing public financing on taxation rather than by borrowing. This self-interest colors their “opinions.” More..
Why one good teacher decided to quit
by Jamie Gumbrecht
Posted July 23, 2011
She doesn’t want to go. After 13 years of teaching high-level math, she has a tested stable of learning methods that helped all her students pass the AP calculus exam. Her room is a popular place for students to escape the drama of the high school cafeteria. Few jobs can indulge her excitement for linear functions and matrix calculus.
“I hate to have to leave it,” DeRegnaucourt said. “I really thought I was going to be that teacher, 65 years old and retiring from the education field. That’s not going to happen.”
She’s quitting, she said, because she can’t afford to stay. More…
The Politics of Education: The Assault on Teachers
by Thomas Santone
Posted July 20, 2011
According to TeacherPortal.com, a starting teacher in New Jersey can expect an average yearly salary of $38,408. To put that in perspective, a family of four living on that salary is considered a low-income family in New Jersey, and they would be able to receive state assistance.
If you deduct the cost of health care under the new Pension and Health Care Reform Law, you would deduct about $5,000 annually. Also 7.5% will automatically get deducted for the pension. Also according to the College Board, public four-year colleges in New Jersey charged an average of $9,298 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. So using that math, a teacher would pay $37,192 for a four-year degree in Education. A loan for that amount payable over 10 years with 6.8% interest would cost $5,304 annually. Now we are down to $25,223 left over for food, clothes, shelter, transportation costs, and out of pocket teaching supplies. What else could those greedy teachers possibly want???? More…
People ask why public sector workers still have benefits: WRONG QUESTION! They should be asking why they do not.
The Strange and Dangerous Militarization of the US Police Force
by Rania Khalek
Posted July 11, 2011
Just after midnight on May 16, 2010, a SWAT team threw a flash-bang grenade through the window of a 25-year-old man while his 7-year-old daughter slept on the couch as her grandmother watched television. The grenade landed so close to the child that it burned her blanket. The SWAT team leader then burst into the house and fired a single shot which struck the child in the throat, killing her. The police were there to apprehend a man suspected of murdering a teenage boy days earlier. The man they were after lived in the unit above the girl’s family.
The shooting death of Aiyana Mo’Nay Stanley-Jones sounds like it happened in a war zone. But the tragic SWAT team raid took place in Detroit. Shockingly, paramilitary raids that mirror the tactics of US soldiers in combat are not uncommon in America. More…
We Need Policy Not Plates
by Jillian Michaels
Posted June 12, 2011
First Lady Michelle Obama recently announced a change from the food pyramid as our government’s primary food group symbol in favor of a simple plate icon, called MyPlate. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the new tool stresses which foods to add more of to your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains, while reducing others like sodium and sugary drinks.
The First Lady did admit the above is an issue: “It [MyPlate] can’t ensure our communities have access to affordable fruits and vegetables,” she said. “That’s still work we need to do.”While it’s great that she is encouraging those issues as part of the public discussion, they need to be an urgent priority, certainly before the USDA unveils an illustration that doesn’t really add anything new to the picture.
So what “work” is the current administration and USDA doing to combat that issue? Nothing. Wait, I take that back — worse than nothing. They are instrumental in perpetuating and even exacerbating the problem through our existing federal agribusiness policy. Our government essentially subsidizes soda, with literally billions of our tax dollars flowing to genetically modified corn in large part to produce high-fructose corn syrup. The message it sends to its citizens with MyPlate, however, is to “drink water instead of sugary drinks.” What’s also an infuriating contradiction is how the plate doesn’t want us to drink sugary drinks, yet the USDA has no problem with the fact that millions of children drink chocolate milk at schools on a daily basis. Unless the government plans on matching crop subsidies to the recommendations of MyPlate (that is, subsidizing fruits and vegetables, rather than corn and soy to make nutritionally inferior processed garbage), nothing will change. In fact, the problem will only continue to get worse. More…
Russia Hysteria Infects WashPost Again: False Story About Hacking U.S. Electric Grid
by Glenn Greenwald
Posted January 2, 2017
The Washington Post on Friday reported a genuinely alarming event: Russian hackers have penetrated the U.S. power system through an electrical grid in Vermont.
What’s the problem here? It did not happen.
There was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid.” The truth was undramatic and banal. Burlington Electric, after receiving a Homeland Security notice sent to all U.S. utility companies about the malware code found in the DNC system, searched all their computers and found the code in a single laptop that was not connected to the electric grid.
Apparently, the Post did not even bother to contact the company before running its wildly sensationalistic claims., so they had to issue their own statement to the Burlington Free Press which debunked the Post’s central claim (emphasis in original): “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop NOT connected to our organization’s grid systems.” More…